Myspace Changed the Game for Musicians Everywhere. Then Facebook Messed Things Up
With Facebook's stock and growth rates skydiving, it's time to say something that should have been said a long time ago: Myspace was better. Maybe not when it came to its coding or those garish "personalized" pages, but definitely when it came to music.
Back in the day—say, about 2004 or so—an artist's Myspace page was an interactive business card, a piece of free ad space upon which bands built brands. One click, and you could find everything: tour dates, photos, bios, videos, blog entries and, most important, streamed music. Now? Folks interested in a one-stop shop of information about a band really have no idea where to turn.
You might be able to find out what you need to know after perusing an artist's Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, Facebook, Bandcamp and personal website, but since Myspace's decline, there's no centralized social-media hub for fans to hang out on.
For starters, Myspace's music player was impeccable. At the top of each page was a built-in song streamer that was easy to use and often had bands' whole catalogs.
When you wanted new music, you weren't left skipping through Pandora ads. You'd simply search through Myspace's categories for up-and-coming musicians in your preferred genres. Through this method, I found out about folks such as Marques Toliver, the soulful violinist/vocalist who has gone on to tour with James Blake; Hope, whose acoustic ballad "Bring Me Flowers" accumulated 5.7 million plays on Myspace; and Grizzly Bear, who have since become indie-rock favorites.
Myspace also helped tons of artists to get signed. Diddy first listened to Janelle Monae on her Myspace page. He promptly messaged her, and months later, she was signed to his label. Universal Republic signed folk-pop singer Colbie Caillat after she held down Myspace Music's No. 1 unsigned-artist spot for months. And artists who built giant followings using the social-networking services include Soulja Boy and human subwoofer Skrillex. At its peak, the company even developed its own label, Myspace Records, to boost some of the talent found on its pages. Sure, other sites can claim stories similar to these, but Myspace seemed to encapsulate the whole fan experience.
Facebook, however, falls short. For one thing, its band pages don't have built-in music streamers. Instead, bands rely on third-party applications such as iLike and Soundcloud, which overcomplicate the listening process.
Further, because every Facebook page has the same monotonous layout, bands aren't able to brand themselves. Sure, it may have been annoying that your 12-year-old cousin used ostentatious designs and had the Pussycat Dolls automatically blasting when you landed, but it was pretty cool to go to your favorite band's page and see the art for their new album painted across it.
For all of these reasons, when users began evacuating Myspace en masse for Facebook, the artists were the last to flee, clinging to their hard-earned friends and play counts. As of now, Facebook still hasn't found a way to fill the gap it inadvertently created.
So what's next? Myspace is still around; Justin Timberlake (soon after starring in a movie about Facebook) this year took part-ownership of the company, with the intention of making it a more entertainment-based site with an emphasison music optimization. Who knows? Maybe, in addition to sexy, he can bring Myspace back.
This article appeared in print as "Myspace Was Better Than Facebook (For Music): For musicians, the fallen king of social media actually had some really good things going for it."
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